US General Curtis Scaparrotti told senators in the Senate Armed Services Committee that he doesn't recommend delivering F-35 jets to Ankara if it doesn't abort the S-400 missile defence deal with Russia. Scaparrotti is the current head of the United States European Command.
The general noted that he, as a military officer, doesn't advise allowing the top US jets to be used in countries that operate Russian military systems, especially air defence systems.
"If they accept the S-400 and establish it within Turkey, there is an issue […] that has to do with the F-35. It presents a problem to all of our aircraft, but specifically the F-35. My best military advice would be that we don't follow through with the F-35[delivery], flying it or working with an ally that's working with Russian systems, particularly air defence systems", he said.
The other issue that Scaparrotti raised was the fact that Russian air defence systems are not interoperable with the existing integrated air and missile defence systems set up by NATO allies.
At the same time, Scaparrotti noted that Turkey remains an important strategic ally for the US, with 334 open foreign military sales (FMS) cases worth over $9.9 billion in total.
"These sales are important components of the broad US-NATO effort to ensure interoperability of equipment and combined training in Western tactics, techniques and procedures", the general said.
State Departments' Last Efforts to Dissuade Turkey From Buying S-400s
At the same time, the US State Department is making a final attempt to convince Ankara to change its mind on the purchase of S-400s, Hurriyet reported. According to the Turkish newspaper, Washington has sent US Special Envoy for Syria James Jeffrey and US Undersecretary of State Matthew Palmer to Turkey, partially for the purpose of convincing Ankara to drop the deal and instead buy US Patriot systems.
Earlier, in December 2018, the US State Department sanctioned the sale of $3.5 billion worth of Patriot air defence systems in a bid to convince Turkey to drop the S-400 deal with Moscow, which was signed in December 2017. Previously, lawmakers in Washington attempted to achieve the same goal by introducing special prerequisites for the delivery of F-35s. Namely, the Pentagon has to present a report regarding the possibility that Turkey-based S-400s would be able to compromise technologies used in the F-35.
Ankara slammed Washington's move, noting that it had fulfilled all its obligations for F-35 supplies and that there are no reasons to halt the shipments to the country. Turkey previously refused the US offer to sell Patriots, citing better offers from China and Russia.